Bruce and Geraldine Yaw from New York State joined me for a morning of backcountry fly fishing in Matlacha Wildlife Refuge in Charlotte Harbor. We were joined by porpoise, manatee, eagle osprey, egrets, heron and ibis. A neap tide and cool water temps made fishing a challenge but we persevered and caught sea trout, lady fish and snook all on flies. Some folks poo poo ladyfish - but on a 6 or 8wt rod they are a hoot.
It's always nice having help loading up after a charter. These pictures were taken at the Placida Park boat ramp near the Boca Grande Causeway.
A snowy egret on the poling platform ans a great egret standing by on the dock made sure all those pesky shrimp were gone from the livewell.
Spring fishing has arrived in Charlotte Harbor. The snook are moving on the sand flats, spotted sea trout are on the grass beds. The water temps are rising. The water clarity has improved greatly.
Conditions: Due to rising temperature and dry conditions; water clarity will improve and the water temps will increase into the 70s. There’s some white bait showing up in Matlacha pass and other location in the middle portion of the Harbor. Welcome to spring in SW Florida!
Species to fish for this week: Redfish, Spotted Seatrout, Bluefish, Jacks, Ladyfish, Snook, tarpon
Bait the fish are feeding on: shrimp, crabs, pinfish, ladyfish. Some whitebait in Matlacha Pass and on Bokeelia Shoals.
Fishing Tactics: With the clearer and warmer water tactics change to fishing moving water along the grass flats and sight fishing for reds and snook on the sandbars and oyster beds. The fish will be more aggressive but also a bit spookier. Stay back and make long casts, if you can see the fish – they can see you too.
My fly fishing tip of the week: I get asked about bite tippet a lot – Use a minimum of 20# for smaller fish. 25#-30# for baby tarpon and snook. Always use fluorocarbon. Check the tippet after EVERY catch. Not just by sight, do a pull test.
My spin fishing tip of the week: Same holds true for spinning gear: 20# for the little guys and 25#-30# for biguns. Check the tippet after EVERY catch.
7 day outlook: Seems winter is behind us here in Southwest Florida. The cold front that passed through the past weekend was week brought light winds. This coming weeks will be dry with daytime highs in the low to mid 80s. Don’t forget to pack your sandals and sunscreen!
The fishing will be good on Charlotte Harbor this month despite all the news and social media hype about water releases from Lake Okeechobee. The water in and around Pine, Sanibel and Captiva Islands is brown (turbid) and has an elevated nutrient level but is not toxic.
Turbid water along the Lee County coastline is being caused by freshwater released from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee River. Such releases have taken place for years during the rainy season but they rarely happen this time of year. The releases are due to recent record rainfall and are necessary to keep homes, businesses and agriculture around the lake from being flooded and destroyed. Currently 4 billion gallons of Lake Okeechobee water a day is going into the Caloosahatchee. There’s 2 billion gallons per day going into the St. Lucie River and another 2 million gallons per day going into the Everglades through Shark River Slough. This will continue for several more weeks. No one disputes that something has to be done to stop the releases into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers. The water must be allowed to flow into the everglade as it once did. Unfortunately it will take 5-10 years to accomplish this.
This chart shows Charlotte Harbor. It encompasses 270 square miles. There are over 15 launch ramps on the Harbor providing access to great fishing. The shaded area is where the turbid water from Lake Okeechobee is. Fishing in this area will not be all that good in March. The rest of the Harbor will have great fishing for redfish, seatrout, sheephead, cobia, jacks, snook and more.
If you are fishing the lower east side of the Harbor in March you will find the best action will be during the dropping tide. If you are fishing the lower west side of the Harbor the incoming tide will provide the better action. The upper Harbor will have good fishing conditions on all tides. Fish the deep holes around the mangrove islands for trout and redfish early and move to the grass flats as the water warms. The Snook will be around or on the sand flats and will eat when the water temps warm above 70*.
My fly fishing tip of the month: Fish with bulky and brightly colored flies in the Upper Harbor and smaller, more lifelike flies in the lower Harbor. Slow down your presentations when the water is cold.
My spin fishing tip of the month: Downsize your lures, especially if your fishing jigs with soft plastic tails. We’ve been getting a lot of bumps and short strikes on the larger baits.